a different side of Israel

Not Jewish?! What are you doing here? (Part Four)

Not Jewish by Jill Cartwright

Israeli Men Prefer Blondes

In Part 4 of “Not Jewish?!”, our intrepid heroine gives us a hilarious and spot-on description of how the Israeli Male interacts with his car, the road and…women. Especially blonde women.
Part 1, part 2, part 3.

by Jill Cartwright

“It must be nice being blonde in Israel,” a male friend who had recently arrived in the country from Canada once told me. “Cars must actually stop for you at pedestrian crossings.”

And with that he neatly encapsulated two major traits of the Israeli male: One being a maniacal and totally subjective interpretation of the Highway Code that would impress even a Bangkok tuk-tuk driver; the other being their unabashed, unfiltered and unsubtle staring.

Israeli drivers all live by the same motto: “I own the road and therefore can do whatever I want”: I can do a U-turn in the middle of a highway, I can overtake on the inside lane, and take over in every other lane. I need not signal, I need use no lights nor seatbelts and I have the absolute right to stop flat in the middle of the road if an old friend just happens to be driving in the opposite direction. At which point I will come to a stop, lean out of the open window and proceed to exchange news and updates on old army pals, wives and kids, etc., and swap new phone numbers and changes of address.

And this I will do oblivious to the high-pitched screech of horns from the chaos of cars, trucks, buses and mopeds piling up behind me, all of which are driven by equally maniacal drivers.

I borrowed Boaz’s car once when we were still together and decided I would see how I felt driving to work for the week.

By about day four I figured I would rather deal with the fear of being blown to pieces on a bus.

As a pedestrian, without a couple of tons of metallic armour, crossing the street is no easy task. And as for those black and white stripes from one side of the road to the other, which in every other country in the world signify pedestrian right of way, to the Israeli driver, they are just irrelevant grafitti on the tarmac.

The drivers don’t look, they don’t stop, they don’t care, and every attempt to cross the road becomes a suicidal game of dare.

You step off the pavement , taking that leap of faith with a deep breath and stern resolution, you slowly venture further out into the road, your head switching from side to side like you’re at the Wimbledon finals, pushing your legs forward, exuding all the confidence you body can muster, even though the car rapidly approaching is showing no signs of slowing. He thinks you’ll never dare, but you’re determined not to spend another 15 minutes waiting at the side of the road for a car to let you cross – because they do that in England, but not here.

So you push forward, feeling all vulnerable out there in the middle of the road and his foot’s not even twitching from that accelerator pedal, so you try and catch his eye and stare him out and claim the right to cross the road, heart beating hard, legs all aquiver, until, if you’re lucky, he’ll show signs of slowing and “graciously” let you cross the street. And here is where it helps to be blonde, which brings us to our next point about Israeli men – they stare.

They stare without batting an eyelid, without shame and without any pretense at subtlety. They stare when they’re with their girlfriends and their wives and when they’re pushing their kids in a stroller with another five of them running on ahead.

Without even trying to hide it, they’ll stare you up and down, do a full body scan, even catch your eye – bare-facedly, unashamedly and in the full light of day, just “check you out.” And when you’re blonde they stare even more.

These days it drives me crazy. These days I tend to pour forth a torrent of sarcastic abuse on the unsuspecting male who happens to stare or, heaven forbid, make a comment, and I am often looked at in bemused curiosity – the way one looks at ranting idiots in the street. Because, after all, he just thinks he’s paying me a compliment.

But when it was all new to me, as it was that summer living with Noa in Tel Aviv, when this new life was roaring at me in all its raw vividness and passion, and I was high on the powerful energy that the city carries on its warm breezes, I was quite happy just staring right back.

Because when you come from a country where the males’ main pastime is downing pints of lager and the resulting flabby, white dimpled bellies are only unleashed for the three days the sun puts in an appearance in an English summer, Israeli men – let’s face it – are gorgeous.

I found myself surrounded by olive-skinned males, bodies bronzed by years of sunshine – unlike the screaming red that betells the English tourist who fell asleep on his first day on the sand. And the women, smooth-skinned and svelte, parade around the beach strutting their stunning Mediterranean genes, with their pierced flat tummies, and curls tumbling down to the curve of their backs.

Israelis have that deep, dark-eyed thing going on, thick masses of hair and looks that come only when you blend Moroccan blood with Polish blood or Yemenite with Hungarian, Iraqi with Turkish or any other of the hundreds of combinations that have melted together in this Mediterranean hot pot. So much to stare at.

And everyone here’s half naked most of the time. After all, when it’s 35 degrees in the shade and 70 percent humidity, who needs clothes? Flip-flops are considered formal footwear; the addition of a vest transforms beachwear to eveningwear; bra straps, panty lines and belly buttons are out for all to see. I’ve even seen men walking down the street barefoot and in nothing more than a pair of Speedos – which I’m sure they would wear out at night given half the chance. (Here they wear their pyjamas to the corner shop, shorts to the office and jeans to their best friend’s wedding.)

Because they just don’t care. They don’t care if you’re staring at them and they see nothing wrong with staring back at you. To me, it all seemed so liberating. Coming from England where people are constantly reserved and sorry and bundled up in cold, grey clothes against the cold, grey weather, hunched up and inward looking, to here, where it was all, quite literally, out in the open.

Really all out in the open. The flesh is out in the open, feelings are out in the open, sex, passion, anger and love – they’re all out in the open. And I was loving it and fell for it completely – particularly in the form of one young Tel Avivian.

Long-haired and tattooed, with a gaze that could make my knees weak and absolutely not the kind of guy I could ever take home to meet my very British grandmother, he broke my heart to smithereens and crushed my ego to a fine powder like the sand that sweeps the beachfront promenade. And I figured out that I was not quite a cool and casual Tel Avivian – yet.

Once again, my friends came to the rescue to pick me up out of my despair and were determined to get me involved in that very Israeli phenomenon of “setting me up with someone.” It’s like a national sport here.

“Jilly, I’ve got the perfect guy for you,” Shahar would shout down the phone at me …


  1. There better be more 🙂

  2. This is the reason I am a tanorexic. Because blonde Israelis prefer the bronzed.

  3. when it’s 35 degrees in the shade and 70 percent humidity, who needs clothes?
    Holy smokes, you people are tough; when its that cold out I’m wearing a sweater and an overcoat. My clothes don’t even begin to come off until it is at least 75 or ideally 80+.

  4. Being a blonde myself and having long since overcome the willingness to be little more than ones ornament for their Ferrari, I learned how to really have fun with the “because your blonde” attention we often get. A great cure for the stares…Stare back, be sure to make solid eye contact, while presenting the most unabased, lustful longing look you can muster. Then flash and award winning, teeth revealing smile (having previously prepared by blackening in 2 teeth on the top and 1 or 2 on the bottom)
    NO LAUGHING! Behold the priceless change of expression!

  5. John, you might be confusing Celsius and Fahrenheit here.

  6. That’s right, John. Foreigners use Celsius. I’m sure they have their reasons but I can’t think of any good ones. FYI 35C = 95F

  7. WOW! Israel really is a special country full of Great-looking bronzed, olive skinned, handsome, musclear Men and beautifully shaped Women: All of whom are ready to make love at a moment’s notice with a poor, pale, reserved & sexually repressed Anglo-Saxon! (No Sex Please, We’ve British, etec.!) Okay, okay I am just kidding, but, Jill, you did voice just about every cliche about the sterotyped sexual superiority of the dark-skinned Mediterran Lover over the graceless, fair skinned, sexless, cold Northern European!
    Speaking of Mediterran types, the way Israelis drive certainly matches that of the Italians & the Spainish.
    John, I believe Jill meant 35 degrees Centigrade, which is about 100 degress Farienherit!

  8. Girl, you are hot.

    Have you got Israeli citizenship?

  9. I too find this a bit too stereotypical.

  10. Oh, in the above post, I left out the adjective, virile, as in “dark-skinned VIRILE Meditteran Lover”.

  11. I for one, and I’m sure I’m not alone, would love to see some more pic’s on this blog of Jill, and other stuff…

  12. Okay, David All – You’re only allowed to criticise my friend’s writing once per thread. After that I start to get a bit tetchy. 😉 We got your point.

    But I don’t agree.

    Jill, I laughed aloud while reading this. Spot-on, as I know very well from hanging out with you.

    And dah-link! Such a writer you are!

  13. all very true. But you go ahead and emulate the Israelis. It’ll help the demographic and some day prove that the Palestinians never existed.

  14. I thought the article was hysterical, and very well written.

    And i say that as a buxom blonde, who has lived here for 12 years and succumbed to the fatal charms of a tall, dark, handsome Israeli.

    One of the first things i learned to say when talking to someone in a bar was “Eh! Mami! Ani poh! ‘stakel li ba’eynayim!”

    Shades of my long-forgotten and mispent youth. Ah nostalgia… More, more, write more Jill!

  15. Okay, when is Part 5 going to be posted. I Am waiting to hear if “the perfect guy” worked out for you, Jill.

  16. This year I went to Israel for the first time as part of an arts program. The staring Jill mentions is something that made me very very uncomfortable as it is done in an absolutely intrusive way and by men of almost all walks and in all companies (no joke, with wives and even their children in tow, not uncommon at all).

    At some points I really felt like throwing in the towel and returning. But because i am Jewish i really convinced myself to hang in there but it was a struggle as i came to grips with the fact that israel has a lot more in common wit the Middle Eastern ideas and culture than Western ones. Why they stare at you as if you were an object and not a person is due to a fundamental lack of respect for women outside of the family, in a public sphere and unaccompanied by a male.

    Moreover, I lived for some years in both Spain and Sardinia, Italy and no, this is not a Mediterranean thing by any stretch of the imagination. And although the Israelis will readily identify themselves with Europe rather than the Middle East, their self image is sometimes very far from the reality.

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